Low sperm count, also known as oligozoospermia, is where there are fewer than 15 million sperm per millimetre of semen and it is actually very common but the signs of it and the contributors to the condition aren’t as well known.
For example, while we may associate low sperm count with symptoms such as low sex drive or erectile dysfunction, there are actually signs of it that can be spotted very early on.
91% of Brits were unaware that facial hair can be an indicator
Superdrug Online Doctor found that as many as 91% of Brits were unaware that decreased facial hair can be a sign of low sperm count. Additionally, seven in ten Brits weren’t aware that eating processed foods and having poor sleep can harm sperm health, too.
Low sperm count can contribute to problems with infertility and in fact, 1 in 3 couples struggling to get pregnant are affected by the issue. It doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for your partner to conceive but does mean that there could be difficulties.
Causes of low sperm count
According to the NHS, it’s not always obvious what causes a low sperm count but the following issues could be factors contributing to it:
- a hormone imbalance, such as hypogonadism (reduced hormone production)
- a genetic problem such as Klinefelter syndrome
- having had undescended testicles as a baby
- a structural problem – for example, the tubes that carry sperm being damaged and blocked by illness or injury, or being absent from birth
- a genital infection such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or prostatitis (infection of the prostate gland)
- varicoceles (enlarged veins in the testicles)
- previous surgery to the testicles or hernia repairs
- the testicles becoming overheated
- excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and using drugs such as marijuana or cocaine
- certain medications, including testosterone replacement therapy, long-term anabolic steroid use, cancer medications (chemotherapy), some antibiotics and some antidepressants
- being overweight or obese
When to get your sperm count checked
The NHS recommends that if you haven’t managed to conceive after trying for one year to have a baby, you and your partner to both see your GP to see what the contributors are because it’s often a combination of both partners.
Your GP can arrange a semen analysis, where the quality and quantity of the sperm is analysed and provided within a week. If further treatment is needed, you’ll be referred to a specialist infertility clinic.